Dialectical Spiritualism: Immanuel Kant, Part 8


Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Hayagriva dasa: Kant spoke of "the starry sky above, and the moral law within." This seems to echo Christ's teaching that "the kingdom of God is within you."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, if you are actually a lover of God and His instructions, the kingdom of God is within.

Syamasundara dasa: Kant proposes that since the moral law cannot possibly be fulfilled within the limits of one lifetime, the soul must be immortal.

Srila Prabhupada: That is a very good proposition. That is real evolution. Darwin had no idea of the existence of the soul, and he gave some theories about material evolution, which we do not accept. But there is spiritual evolution. Even though a devotee falls down, what he has earned in devotional service will never be lost. In the next life, he begins from that point. However, as far as material activities are concerned, they vanish with the change of body.

Syamasundara dasa: Kant also proposes that since only God can insure the human endeavor for the supreme good, God's existence is a necessary postulate of practical reason.

Srila Prabhupada: We have already explained this. Whatever devotional service is rendered in this life is taken up in the next. Who can give the living entity that chance but God? I may forget, but God does not forget. God is Paramatma. He is within, and He knows what the living entity has done to this point.

Syamasundara dasa: For Kant, the summum bonum is virtue combined with happiness. Happiness is the knowledge of doing what is right.

Srila Prabhupada: Happiness means spiritual happiness. There is no material happiness because whatever is material is temporary. Since the spirit soul is eternal, he must have spiritual happiness. That happiness is Krsna consciousness. If you know that you are the eternal servant of Krsna, and you are serving Krsna, that service is your happiness. Even if your duty is painful, you are still happy because you know that you are acting for Krsna.

Syamasundara dasa: Kant points out that on earth, happiness does not necessarily accompany goodness; therefore there must be a God who sees that a virtuous man finds his deserved happiness in a future life. Without such justice, there would be no meaning to morality.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, in the last mantra of Isopanisad, it is stated:

ague nay a supatha ray a asman 
visvani deva vayunani vidvan 
yuyodhy asmaj juhuranam eno 
bhuyistham te nama-uktim vidhema

"0 my Lord, powerful as fire, omnipotent One, now I offer You all obeisances, falling on the ground at Your feet. 0 my Lord, please lead me on the right path to reach You, and, since You know all that I have done in the past, please free me from the reactions to my past sins so that there will be no hindrance to my progress." (Isopanisad 18) We should be very sincere in our service to God so that He will relieve us of the reactions of our karma. Unless there is a Supreme, what is the value of morality?

Syamasundara dasa: Kant would say that in his earthly life, a man should not be motivated toward moral conduct out of any expectation of happiness, but out of a sense of duty, or reverence for the moral law.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that means unmotivated service. It is not that we love Krsna just to receive some benefit. It is our duty. That is pure morality. Knowing that we are part and parcel of Krsna, we should render service to Krsna without ulterior motivation.

Syamasundara dasa: The goal of Kant's personal ethics is twofold: it is a person's duty to attain his own perfection and also to seek the happiness of others.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is Krsna consciousness. A Krsna conscious man is not happy thinking, "I have now contacted Krsna; therefore my business is finished." Other living entities are also part and parcel of Krsna, but due to misguidance, they are not serving Him. Consequently, they are not attaining happiness. It is the duty of one who knows Krsna to preach about Him out of mercy. Those who are satisfied just tending to their own personal spiritual life are not as highly elevated as those who try to enlighten others.

Syamasundara dasa: Pure practical reason, the free will's ability to choose, takes priority over pure speculative reason, or theorizing about reality.

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, it is not sufficient to merely understand that there is a God. We must render service to God. Our Krsna consciousness movement means applying knowledge of Krsna. If you are a devotee, you must demonstrate it. My Guru Maharaja therefore condemned those who make a show of being devotees and spend all day and night within closed doors chanting Hare Krsna. Sometimes such people smoke and have illicit sex because they are not mature in their devotional service. A neophyte should work for Krsna; otherwise he will simply be a showbottle. We have to spread Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings all over the world.

Syamasundara dasa: Kant concludes that self-realization is superior to mere philosophy.

Srila Prabhupada: This Krsna consciousness movement is a practical demonstration of this. Since we know that we are the eternal servants of Krsna, we engage in His service. Krsna wants it to be known that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. W e may either accept this or not — that is all right with Krsna — but it is our business to inform everyone that Krsna is the Supreme Lord and that everyone else is His eternal servant. If we enlighten people in this way, we are engaged in Krsna's service. It is not that we go to church and ask God, "Give us our daily bread." God is giving bread daily to everyone, even to birds and beasts; therefore it is not practical to ask God for what He is already supplying. According to our Vaisnava philosophy, we must work for Krsna. We are not just theorizing, but practicing.